By Dr. Beth Leermakers
Entertaining my young foster on days with 109° afternoons is challenging. In cooler weather, we’d go for a second walk or play fetch in the backyard. However, when the mercury hits triple digits, playing outside isn’t safe. Left to their own devices, 55-pounders Oliver and Jacquie turn my couch into a wrestling ring — while I’m sitting on it. Great fun for them, not so pleasant for me! Here are a few options for safe exercise on these summer scorchers:
Turn your house into a doggie gym. If you have stairs that are safe for high speeds, encourage your dog to follow you up and down the stairs a few times. If your dog is reluctant to join you, give her a few treats at the top and bottom of the stairs, and she’ll quickly catch on. You could also play fetch on the stairs by throwing the ball or rope toy down (or back up!) the stairs. After clearing away breakable obstacles, play fetch in a long hallway or room. I’ve learned the hard way not to use tennis balls inside the house. Instead, I use softer, lighter toys that do less damage when my aim goes awry. Double your dog’s fun by having another person at the other end of the hallway to play keep-away with the toy you threw.
Play hide and treat. Put your dog in another room while you hide small treats at floor level throughout your house. You can also place a trail of treats on the stairs.
Break out the treat-dispensing puzzle toys. Stimulate your dog’s brain by having him work for his meals or treats. The Kong Wobbler or puzzle toys like the Buster Cube entertain a food-motivated dog for at least a few minutes. I used to serve Snowie’s meals in the Buster Cube to slow him down.
Put his nose to work. Inspired by working detection dogs (drug- or bomb-sniffing dogs), K9 nose work is a fun search and scenting activity, even for non-working dogs and their people. Nose work starts with your dog using his nose to find his favorite treats hidden in one of several boxes. Then it expands to encompass entire rooms and exterior areas (save that one for cooler weather). For more information, visit k9nosework.com/about-us/what-k9-nose-work.
Take your dog shopping. Home Depot, Lowes, Bass Pro Shops, Half Price Books and other big pet-friendly stores (including the downtown Neiman Marcus!) are the canine equivalent of mall walking. Check out Dog About Town (dallasnews.com/life/pets/2018/07/20/dog-town-splishing-splashing-things) for an updated list of DFW-area dog-friendly businesses, and call your local store first to be sure dogs are truly welcome at your location. Buy a little something while you’re there, to keep the retailers happy. “Gee honey, I had to buy a new bass boat. I’ve been using their store for Buster’s summer exercise.”
Go to school. Sign up for an obedience, agility, freestyle dance or flyball class at an air-conditioned, indoor facility. You and your pup can tackle a new challenge while getting a workout. All Fur Fun in Addison (allfurfundog.com) and Top Dog Obedience Training in Garland (topdogdallas.com) offer obedience and dog sports classes in climate-controlled comfort.
Hit the pool. If your dog isn’t welcome in your friend’s pool, take advantage of the end-of-season dog swimming events at Dallas-area public pools (many benefit local animal shelters or rescue groups). The aquatic activities kick off in mid-August, with Paws in the Pooloza in Cedar Hill on Aug. 11 and Pooch Plunge at Wet Zone in Rowlett on Aug. 12. Garland and Mesquite also host dog swimming events. Wags & Waves, benefitting several animal rescue groups, will be held at the Garland Hawaiian Falls on Sept. 8. Visit dallasdoglife.com and Dog About Town for a list of upcoming pooch plunges. By being a little creative and taking advantage of Dallas’ dog-friendly stores and facilities, you can safely exercise your high-energy dog on these steamy summer days. I hope to see you at a dog swimming event!